My secret to a healthy work-life balance

How you can feel happier and more productive in the workforce

If you’re like millions of people in the U.S. and around the world, you may be taking some time off from work this month. But imagine what it would be like to never have to go back to your office again…

No, I’m not talking about quitting your job. I mean joining the growing trend of people working from home. In fact, a recent Gallup survey found that nearly half of all employed Americans (43 percent) work from home at least part of the time.1

I know from personal experience that telecommuting—even as little as a day or two a week—has many physical, mental, and emotional benefits. And there’s plenty of research backing me up.

So as your summer vacation winds down, consider making some changes in your work environment.

Here’s what you need to know to convince yourself, your family, and your employer that working from home is a healthy choice.

Improve your health by staying at home

Research shows that working from home can boost your health in four key ways:

1. Diet.

One of the biggest risks to your health anytime you’re away from home is the inability to control your food sources and dietary choices. People who work outside the home may often find themselves grabbing fast or processed foods in order to save time and effort.

In fact, a new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study found that the foods people typically eat at work are high in calories, sugar, fat, and refined grains.

The most common foods consumed from workplace vending machines, work meetings, or social events were pizza, soft drinks, cookies, cakes, brownies, pies, and candy.2

But when you work from home, your kitchen is right there. So if you need a snack, healthy options are just a stroll away. Plus, you can quickly and easily make your own lunch.

One recent British study showed that people who ate home-cooked meals had more adherence to a healthy Mediterranean diet and consumed more fruits and vegetables than people who ate out. They were also 24 percent less likely to be overweight.3

2. Exercise.

A new, five-year study of more than 163,000 U.K. men and women found that those who were obese and commuted to work in a car had a 59 percent higher risk of heart disease and a 32 percent higher risk of early death than people of normal weight who walked or biked to work.4

Of course, biking or walking to work is ideal no matter how much you weigh. But how many people actually live close enough to the office for that to be a realistic possibility? The benefit of working from home isn’t only eliminating a sedentary commute (or any commute for that matter), but the ability to set your own schedule—with built-in exercise breaks.

For instance, I like to take a short walk in the morning, do a few stretches during lunch, and practice a couple yoga poses in the afternoon—while meditating.

And if you think you’re too busy to meditate, remember that you don’t need to enter a Buddhist monastery. My colleague Don McCown and I wrote a book, New World Mindfulness, to show you how to meditate even during a hectic workday (when you may actually need it the most).

To order a copy, head over to www.Dr.Micozzi.com and shop the “Books” tab.

3. Sleep.

As I’ve written before, studies show that getting at least seven hours of sleep each night is vital for your health. And a new study shows this is particularly important as you age.

Researchers found that people in their 50s through 70s who sleep less than when they were younger may have higher levels of tau proteins in their brains—which can be associated with Alzheimer’s disease.5

One simple way to increase your sleep time is to cut your commute. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average morning commute takes 26 minutes.6

So, think of how much healthier you’d be if you could spend that time asleep in your bed instead!

Plus, when you work from home, you have more opportunities for quick “power naps.” Studies show afternoon naps are beneficial for your health—as long as they don’t exceed 30 to 45 minutes.

4. Stress.

When you work from home, you avoid the frustrations of commuting, the bad moods of your boss, and the machinations of co-workers. That’s a big reason why one analysis of 46 studies on telecommuting found that people who work from home had better morale and work-life balance, which led to less overall stress.7

To sum it all up, one recent survey of people who work from home found that 45 percent slept more each day, 35 percent got more physical exercise, and 42 percent ate healthier than when they worked mainly in an office. Not to mention, 53 percent said they had less stress and a more positive attitude.8

Boost your productivity

So if you’re working from home, you’re eating better, exercising more, sleeping longer, and majorly reducing your stress—all of which help keep your immune system in good shape. Plus, you’re not constantly exposed to germs in the office and in public spaces on the way to work.

This means you’re less likely to get sick and take days off from work. But that’s not the only way working from home boosts productivity. Research shows that people simply get more done in their home office when they’re not distracted by talkative co-workers, useless meetings, or other interruptions.

In a two-year Stanford study involving 500 employees of a Chinese travel agency, half of the employees worked from home, and half worked in the office.

Researchers found that the telecommuters increased their performance by 13 percent, thanks to taking fewer breaks and sick days.9

Additionally, the telecommuting group reported more job satisfaction than the office group. In fact, the home workers were 50 percent less likely to quit their jobs than their desk-jockey counterparts.

Get your employer on board too

These findings are echoed by a report based on over 4,000 studies and articles on telecommuting.10 The report found that telecommuting reduced employee attrition by 46 percent and slashed unscheduled absences by 63 percent.

And contrary to the stereotype of workers lounging at home in their pajamas watching TV, companies reported that their telecommuters were a whopping 15 to 45 percent more productive than their office-based colleagues.

This is good news—for employees and employers. What company wouldn’t like more productivity from workers, fewer absences, and reduced costs for office space?

If your boss balks at letting you work from home, here are some handy stats from a 2018 report to help them reconsider:11

If those with compatible jobs and a desire to work from home did so just half the time, the national savings would total over $700 billion a year.

Plus:

  • A typical business would save $11,000 per person per year.
  • The telecommuters themselves would save between $2,000 and $7,000 per year.

Make your household happier

Working from home helps people with childcare or elder care responsibilities stay in the workforce. And it makes it easier to keep and care for pets—which has its own major health benefits, as I reported in the July issue of Insiders’ Cures.

Plus, cutting out an office commute benefits older people and people with disabilities who have difficulty getting to a workplace, but are still perfectly capable of working from home.

All of these benefits can help improve your personal relationships. In fact, a study from Sweden found that commuting to a job can actually ruin marriages.12

When one partner commuted more than 90 minutes per day, researchers found that the couple had a 40 percent greater chance of getting a divorce.

The researchers reported that time away from loved ones, alongside the frustration and stress of commuting, makes it hard to maintain a positive mood—which may impact relationships.

(Of course, the researchers didn’t mention what could happen to relationships when working in close proximity to other people in the office, or commuting on public transportation, day after day…)

Don’t forget to socialize

One of the major benefits of working from home is that it often leads to greater personal freedom. You can get dressed the way you like (or not at all), and have more control over your daily routines and schedule. You may be able to work when you’re most productive, energized, or inspired.

All of which means you’ll likely be happier.

But there are a few caveats. Most people need social interactions to stay mentally and emotionally healthy. Isolation and loneliness can kill, as I’ve reported before. Some studies even show that the adverse health effects of loneliness may be almost as bad for your health as heavy smoking or obesity.

So even if it’s just chatting with someone at the water cooler, working in an office provides social interactions you may not get when you telecommute.

That’s why I recommend getting out of the house at least once a day. Go for a swim, take your dog to the park, or meet up with friends. Keep your social contacts intact, and remain part of your community.

Another option is to occasionally work at a quiet café or coffee shop, at the local library, or in the park. All of these venues will give you a chance to interact with others, and maybe even make new friends.

Leave your work at your home office door

Another peril of telecommuting is that you can end up working too much. Because working from home can mean your office is potentially “open” 24/7.

Setting boundaries between your work and personal life may be more difficult—and your recreation, relaxation, and relationships may suffer. Plus, always thinking about work may lead to dissatisfaction, fatigue, and even depression.

I personally deal with this in two ways:

  1. Implementing a daily routine. We’re ultimately creatures of habit, which helps create a sense of place and space. This helps us be more efficient and conserve energy.

Healthy habits (like eating a good breakfast and taking a morning stroll) when starting the day will  get you off to a good start. And a routine for ending the work day (like shutting off your electronic devices and closing the door to your home office) will help signal to your brain that it’s time to turn off and relax.

  1. Having a separate workspace. You can help keep your personal life private by separating where you work from where you sleep or relax.

If you can’t dedicate a room in your house as your office, simply designating a specific workspace will do. The key is to ensure that your “work” area is separate from your “living” area.

The bottom line is this: There are many benefits that come with working from home. And these tips will help you make sure your mental and physical well-being profit the most from your work arrangement.

Sources:

1https://news.gallup.com/reports/199961/7.aspx

2“Foods and Beverages Obtained at Worksites in the United States.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Volume 119, Issue 6, 999 – 1008.

3“Frequency of eating home cooked meals and potential benefits for diet and health: cross-sectional analysis of a population-based cohort study.” Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017; 14: 109.

4“Sleep as a potential biomarker of tau and β-amyloid burden in the human brain.” The Journal of Neuroscience, 2019; 0503-19.

5https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190427201946.htm

6https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/travel-time.html

7https://goal-lab.psych.umn.edu/orgpsych/readings/10.%20Work-Life%20Balance/Gajendran%20&%20Harrison%20(2007).pdf

8https://www.cosocloud.com/uncategorized/connectsolutions-survey-shows-working-remotely-benefits-employers-and-employees

9https://nbloom.people.stanford.edu/sites/g/files/sbiybj4746/f/wfh.pdf

10https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/resources/costs-benefits

11https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/telecommuting-statistics

12https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0042098013498280


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